ONE OF A KIND
Popular music has long been a sanctuary for odd birds. But even by those standards, Ellinor Olovsdotter, the unforgettable voice behind such singles as “Down on Life” and “Love Me Badder,” is a rare species. Past collaborating with a who’s who of electronic dance stars, including Skrillex, Diplo and DJ Snake, the Swedish artists rarity is strengthened by a focus on keeping true to her own rhythm. “Society very much tried to change me as a kid,” she says of her upbringing in a pre-gentrified rough neighborhood in southern Stockholm. “They said I was wrong and everything I wanted was wrong.” She escaped as soon as she turned 18, and began traveling the world with a backpack, a notebook, and a desire for experience and defiant self-expression. During that time, Elli (the name she prefers) discovered music as yet another super-open creative channel in her brain. Fast forward a few years and she’s adopted the moniker Elliphant, signed to Sweden’s TEN Music Group, followed by Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records, put out several hype-stoking EPs, starred in an iPad commercial, and has now released her long-awaited North American debut album, Living Life Golden. “The thing that makes my project special is that I never had a favorite genre and I never had a pretentious idea of my music,” Elli says of her unconventional path. “People have their sound. They have their magic that they’re holding onto, their way of doing things. If I looked at myself like that, I could have been broken really quickly. Instead, I am very free.”
Elli’s unconventional, free-spirited approach to life and art may set her apart in the pop world, but given the response to her music thus far, it appears to be exactly what the pop world has been waiting to hear. From the moment she released her first single, the deliciously cheeky, lo-fi “Tekkno Scene” to her most recent banger “Step Down”, there’s been an unrelenting clamour to define and categorize her unique, rasta-pop meets hip-hop meets dance hall sound. She’s been compared to MIA, toured the world with Charli XCX and Major Lazer, and counts everyone from Diplo to Skrillex to TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek as a collaborator and creative co-conspirators.
You’d be hard pressed to name an artist in recent memory who so nimbly borrows from so many genres and seamlessly makes them her own. The title track (co-written and produced by Dave Sitek) is a shimmering synth-pop gem, the sonic equivalent of a perfect summer seaside sunset, while “Thing Called Life” has a melancholic, brooding feel, and the lusty “Love Me Badder” is a straight-up radio-ready smash. Meanwhile, “Step Down” features Joel Little’s signature deceptively simple, laid-back, tropical island sound, but the lyrics are all riled-up punk rock grrrl. Then there’s the high-octane, guitar-fueled “Everybody,” also produced by Dr. Luke and Cirkut and featuring Azealia Banks, which is more of a drive-a-muscle-car-down-the-PCH-style track. “I’d been meeting up with Azealia on tour, hanging out at different festivals and stuff,” Elli says of her friendship with the outspoken rapper. “She’s just a really, really cool, powerful, brave girl who has had so much courage.”
For now: “I want to play!” Elli already has a million ideas for the videos she wants to make, the B-sides she hopes will get released, the stage show she wants to assemble, and the reaction she hopes her fans will have to this music she’s made. “I’m so ready for people to finally hear these songs,” she says. “With this album, it’s a little bit like: ‘Here you go, I rest my case.’”
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